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Indians ready to pay for compelling health-related content, says Brilliant Living TV CEO

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Staying fit and healthy is one of the top priorities in today's hectic lifestyle. Brilliant Living TV is an initiative by Suniel Shetty & Adarsh Gupta, which recently tied up with SonyLiv VoD, Vodafone and Tata Sky DTH to offer health and fitness content.

The Tata Sky interactive service enables subscribers to access a world of fitness experts that train the country’s film stars, from the comfort of their homes. Tata Sky's Pallavi Puri had said that there was a growing desire to find solutions that help manage the challenges of a fast paced and demanding lifestyle. However, not everyone had access to right exercising regimes or trainers across the country. It was this insight that triggered the Actve Fitness service, where Tata Sky offered celebrity fitness experts who would help subscribers to stay fit.  Celebrity fitness trainers such as Kaizzad Capadia, Yasmin Karachiwala, Abbas Ali, and Shifuji share workout, yoga sessions, self-defense and fitness tips that any individual can follow at home.

Brilliant Living TV's founder and CEO Adarsh Gupta added that their focus had been on creating passion and excitement for fitness amongst all Indians by guiding them through fitness exercises such as work-out videos, yoga  and meditation. The former Times Music COO and HMV Saregama music business head who, in December 2014, launched 's first-destination fitness channel bringing together the best global fitness & wellness experts, shared some insights with indiantelevision.com's deputy editor Parvinder Sandhu. Excerpts from an interview:

Do you believe more people in India are inclined towards fitness of late, unlike the scenario, say, 5-10 years ago?

Fitness and wellness has emerged as a megatrend in India today. From being a niche sector 5-10 years ago, fitness today has become a subject of priority in the tier 1 and 2 cities like never before. There are three categories of people in the fitness ecosystem: enthusiasts, dabblers and fence sitters. Between these categories there are approximately 50- 60 million people in the top 20 cities in India today.

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Until recently food or travel industry seemed to be growing in India. But, lately, growth seemed to have slowed down. Why would you not think that fitness is another fad?

Fitness is too intrinsic to the well being of a person and that realization has hit people. The trend today is prevent-rather-than-cure. I believe fitness is too solid an issue on people's agenda to pass off as a fad. Look at more matured markets as a reference point and it is clear that this emerging megatrend in India is here to stay and grow.

How big is the health, fitness and wellness market in India?

The fitness market, which includes essentially the gym eco-system, is expected to be around Rs. 7000 crore (Rs.700,00 million) in the current year. If we expand the scope of the industry to wellness, which then also includes segments such as beauty services /spas/personal health counseling and yoga, the size of the category is in the region of 35,000 core (Rs 350,000 million) and growing 15-17 per cent per year.

How big is the health and fitness genre on/through television?

Actve fitness was the first dedicated fitness/wellness media service that launched in  in 2015. The launch was an unprecedented success and is now being replicated by other leading media houses in India. We at Brilliant Living TV are driving this agenda. Having achieved the position of the most credible content creator in this genre, we have launched and are in the process of tying up the best platforms in the media space in India and relevant markets overseas.

If I were a broadcaster, why would I think of Brilliant Living TV as a wellness content provider or why would it come to my mind?

At Brilliant Living TV, we have the distinction of being the only domain experts that have mapped this category end to end like no other content creator. This is not one of the many things we do...this is the only genre that we super specialize in. The best experts in  and the more advanced markets have all been signed on with our company for exclusive long term deals ensuring the very best expert talent is only with Brilliant  Living TV. We have also been able to layer fitness / wellness with a heavy dose of  Bollywood / celebrity content coefficient ,giving us the all round best competitive advantage.

Is Brilliant Living TV a VC/investor funded company? Or, is it privately funded?

Our company is currently privately funded. However, we will be looking to raise our first round of capital for funding growth objectives soon.

How is BLT company's internal structure?

Suniel Shetty (partner) plays the role of the mentor and guide for BLT. He has been an iconic star who has been known for his fitness through the years and is still fighting fit to the point of being inspirational. He guides us on all aspects of the domain. Additionally, Vikram Razdan (another partner) who is a film industry veteran looks after production for Brilliant Living Television.

How many companies like Shemaroo, Brilliant, etc are supplying health and fitness content to television networks in India ?

Currently there are about 3-4 companies like Shemaroo/Rajshri and a few other that have a presence in this genre. However there are rumors that there is a lot of activity by new companies in this space.

Approximately, how much is Brilliant Living TV's share of the pie? You are 25 months into the business and by when would you potentially break even?

From the point of view of the content catalogue, we are the most dominant player in the category today. We would be bordering approximately 1000 plus hours of content already, which would put us at about 70 percent of this category today.

How many well-known fitness experts have you tied up with and is there something unique in your strategy?

Across the domains of yoga/all forms of fitness/nutrition and spirituality, we have over 400 of the best experts from India and overseas markets signed on to us. It is unique in the sense that we were the first ones to identify fitness/wellness as an opportunity for us to become the domain leaders. The strategy has paid off as we are already spearheading this genre for the most credible and reputed media platforms in India. Besides, most of the remaining platforms are also engaging with us for launches in the near future.

How smooth is it to sign up celebrities and manage (co-ordinate with) them?

The moment you get into the realm of managing celebrities and celebrity experts, there is bound to be a degree of kid glove management involved, and we as a team are real good at it.

As a strategy would you rather not concentrate on the merit of content than the celebrity quotient in the business?

Like i mentioned earlier, there are three categories of people in this ecosystem.

1. Enthusiasts - driven by fitness

2. Dabblers - keep coming in and out of fitness

3. Fence sitters - people who think about getting fit but have done nothing yet.

The celebrity content works beautifully well to motivate the fence sitters and dabblers to get into the fold of fitness. And, hence celebrity content is critical to our content strategy.

Do you think people are ready to pay for non-entertainment programmes in India?

Yes our launch with Tata Sky has proved that people are willing to pay for a genre that has a compelling proposition. All our engagements across Ttata Sky, Vodafone and SsonyLiv are paid services. We believe it is still a genre of very high demand and relatively low supply and, hence, a perfect market for the paid ecosystem.

What are the terms of the Tata Sky deal and was it difficult to convince the team there?

We have a exclusive arrangement only for the DTH segment with them. Outside of DTH, we are free to do what we want. When we approached Tata Sky, the team was looking to start a service under the actve portfolio dedicated to fitness. It may be coincidence but, in retrospect, we timed our initiative really well.  

While the product design for Active Fitness is done by the Tata Sky team, rest of the work is done jointly. The programming scheduling, packaging, etc is all worked on jointly between the teams.

How does it work? You supply a single type of linear content, say, every week/fortnight to Tata Sky and then get paid depending on number of subscribers?

We have a defined refresh rate of content every month that we provide to our platforms. And yes, our revenues are a function of the number of subscribers.

Would you curate your fitness content in the traditional form, or do you also incorporate different styles/genres?

Our objective is to showcase the wealth of knowledge that  India has to offer.. yoga and fitness in its most authentic forms. We do, however, believe that we need to package this content in a contemporaneous way so as to appeal to the youth today.  

Does one get a variety of health and wellness content with one subscription -- for the whole family?

Yes if you subscribe to actve fitness, you get content for all groups. This includes kids, youth, middle aged, senior citizens and dedicated women-related content.

Do you need to keep innovating on content or is it standard form?

Yes we need to keep innovating. While we offer the most traditional forms of yoga workouts, we also showcase the best that the world has to offer in terms of trending workouts like zumba/ariel yoga/pilates/masala bhangra workouts, etc. to name a few.

Would you also negotiate deals with other DTH players or broadcasters? Would the content be similar or differentiated?

I cannot comment on this DTH aspect at this stage. But we have already launched with Sony and are in the middle of tying up with other prominent broadcasters as well.

How much according to you is the wellness business on hand-held devises like mobile phones in India?

There is a growing apetite for all kinds of content on mobile phones and fitness is a part of that emerging story. The logic is simple. In today’s dynamic world where people are forever short of time, if we had a "do it along" fitness workout on our mobile phone, we could be at it anywhere anytime.

What strategy works well for you? SVoD or AVoD?

Our current strategy is SVoD. However, over time we will be looking to expand to the AvoD side of the action too. In our experience both work in India, depending on the core proposition. Majority of action currently is skewed towards AVoD. However, all major players have already either launched an AVoD option or are in the process of putting one together

Is the health content on OTT/VoD platforms similar to DTH content? Is one able to choose different genres of fitness programmes on SonyLiv?

Yes the offering is very similar. At the moment, we are focusing on full length workouts on SonyLiv. However going forward, we are considering shorter workouts as well.

Is the SonyLiv deal exclusive in some way?

Brilliant Living TV exclusively powers the fitness/wellness genre for SonyLiv. The Sony team has clearly viewed this as a great strategic differentiator and is driving the initiative accordingly.

What is your analysis of people being ready to pay for fitness content on mobile?

They may have recently learnt to pay a minimal amount for GECs, sports and movies on Amazon, Netflix etc.

Too early to say. However, my conviction is that fitness is such a compelling genre where options like gyms etc cost a lot more, we expect a good response of the paid audiences. We are in discussion with other OTT players too, but cannot discuss details at this point of time.

Few OTT/VoD players share their numbers of active subscribers. Subs seem to switch a bit too often, or switch off completely. Is that something that bothers content providers?

As a content provider, we understand the need to build a core base of loyal users. We also recognize that there will be a certain percentage of churn on an ongoing basis and we are prepared for that.

India has too many Internet infrastructure challenges. How would you overcome those?

Our offering is adaptive. Hence, the feed adapts itself to the (Internet) speeds available to the viewer.

You seem to be well-entrenched in the health and fitness space. What are the measures that you are taking to maintain your lead?

We are constantly working on increasing our content library with the most happening workouts and experts across domains. We believe we have a significant lead over any other player in this genre and plan to maintain it.

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